Madden NFL's most cursed cover athletes

Jay Asser 06:08 13/05/2017
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Madden legend: Michael Vick. Picture: Getty Images.

Black cats, breaking mirrors, opening umbrellas indoors… All child’s play compared to the ‘Madden Curse’.

Landing on the cover of one of the most popular video game titles sounds cool, right? Not if that game is Madden NFL.

The popular franchise has claimed many victims during it’s brief run. After originally being released as ‘John Madden Football’ in 1988, it featured its namesake on the cover every year until 2001. Players were also shown alongside the former broadcaster and Hall of Fame coach in some of the editions, but 2001 was the first year the game had a cover athlete, with Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George blazing the trail.

Ever since, a weird thing has happened. Several cover athletes have suffered injuries or fallen well short of their previous season output that earned them a spot on the cover in the first place. Prior to Madden 17, however, it looked as if the curse was dying off, with the previous four cover athletes – Odell Beckham Jr, Richard Sherman, Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson – all faring just fine. But then, Madden 17’s Rob Gronkowski missed half the regular season and all of the playoffs with a back injury to revive the voodoo.

Now, Tom Brady of all people will take on the curse by appearing on Madden 18 and attempting to be one of the lucky ones to get through the upcoming season unscathed. If anyone can beat a mythical curse, it’s Touchdown Tom, who at the age of 39 defied Father Time to lift the Lombardi Trophy for the fifth time in his legendary career. What’s a silly curse to Brady?

The New England Patriots quarterback laughs in the face of danger, but if he’s not careful, he could join the following players on one list he wants no part of.

Here are the five most cursed Madden cover athletes:

5. Peyton Hillis Madden 12

at M&T Bank Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Of all the Madden athletes, the Cleveland Brown running back stands out as the one with the least star power. That’s what you get though when you let the fans vote for who should be on the cover. Almost no one expected Hillis to match his 2010 campaign, in which he captured lightning in a bottle by rushing for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, while reeling in 61 receptions for 477 yards, but his decline was sharp. In 2011, he managed 717 yards and three touchdowns in total, playing just 10 games due to hamstring injuries. At least he got his 15 minutes…

4. Donovan McNabb, Madden 06


On paper, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback didn’t fare too badly in the games he played in 2005, notching 2,507 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The problem was he only played in nine games as a groin injury cut his campaign short, one year after he led the Eagles to the Super Bowl and nearly captured what would have been his only ring.

3. Shaun Alexander, Madden 07


One of the issues with being named to the Madden cover is it often comes after you’ve had a career season, so it’s incredibly difficult to replicate that. For Seattle Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander, he was never going to be able to match his bonkers 2005, when he rushed for 1,880 yards and an NFL record 27 touchdowns. Alexander likely would have still had a strong 2006 if he didn’t suffer a broken foot in Week 3 that limited him to 10 games, in which he managed 896 yards and seven touchdowns.

2. Rob Gronkowski, Madden 17


It’s probably not fair to give the Madden Curse credit for this one. At least not full credit. The New England Patriots tight end has been injury prone during his seven-year career and last year was no different. After taking his time to recover from a hamstring injury that kept him out the first two weeks, Gronkowski came back and did his thing in eight games (540 yards, three touchdowns) before a back injury put him on the shelf again. He did end up getting a ring out of it though, so again, was he really cursed?

1. Michael Vick, Madden 2004

No player has experienced Madden’s give and take quite like the former electric Atlanta Falcons quarterback. As far as dominant athletes in video games go, Vick is right near the top thanks to how ridiculously unstoppable he was in Madden 2004. His speed and elusiveness in the game practically made him a cheat code and helped grow the legend of the highlight-reel star. But it wasn’t all good. Before the 2003 season even started, Vick broke his leg in the preseason and missed the first 11 weeks. He eventually got back on the field and had 585 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions, but the Madden Curse had done its damage and established itself as a real threat.

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